(Photo Credit: AP)
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al Sudani affirmed the need to end outstanding disputes between the Iraqi federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in a meeting with the KRG’s prime minister, Rudaw reported.
The meeting came during Sudani’s first visit to Erbil, the KRG’s capital, since assuming the Iraqi premiership in October 2022.
“The prime minister affirmed that the government possesses the will and serious desire to end these outstanding issues in a radical manner and move to a broad horizon of joint action and economic opportunities, which will benefit our people in Kurdistan and all other provinces,” a statement from Sudani’s office read after a meeting with KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani.
Tensions between Erbil and Baghdad have escalated in the past few months due to disagreements over the constitutionality of the Kurdistan Region’s oil and gas law and the KRG’s share of the federal budget.
The Iraqi cabinet approved the federal budget bill for the years 2023, 2024, and 2025 on 13 March, with Sudani stating that Erbil and Baghdad have reached an all-encompassing agreement to resolve outstanding issues.
Rudaw reported further that among the main issues between Erbil and Baghdad is the implementation of Article 140, with Sudani stating that the issue was part of the political agreement and that funds had been allocated in the new budget to address the matter.
Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution was intended to settle the dispute over areas in the provinces of Kirkuk, Diyala, Nineveh, and Salahaddin, which are claimed by both Arabs and Kurds following the Arabization policies implemented by Saddam Hussein. The constitution specified that the issue of the disputed territories is resolved by the end of 2007.
Sudani also met with Masoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), with whom he discussed the political process in Iraq and the need to “solve problems on the basis of the constitution,” according to a statement from Barzani’s office.
In 2014, when ISIS invaded Mosul, and the Iraqi army collapsed in the north of the country, Masoud Barzani’s Peshmerga forces moved to capture Kirkuk and settle the article 140 issue by force.
According to Fortune Magazine, the occupation of Kirkuk allowed the Kurds to greatly increase their estimated oil reserves from about 4 billion barrels to about 13 billion barrels. The Christian Science Monitor noted that with the occupation of Kirkuk, Kurdish leaders were now “Armed with new territory and the oil production base to underwrite a new country.”
Subsequently, Masoud Barzani himself declared that “Article 140 has been applied … The borders are drawn with blood!”
KRG officials then began to export crude from the Kirkuk fields through the Kirkuk-Ceyhan Oil Pipeline to Turkiye, for final sale to Israel, in a move that was viewed as illegal by the Iraqi federal government.
After Barzani announced an independence referendum in the KRG in September 2017, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi sent the Iraqi army to re-take control of Kirkuk the next month and block Barzani’s bid to break away from Iraq.